OK – first – I have summer brain drain from July 4 weekend and also was out-of-town – so I haven’t been following this story super carefully. I read it with great interest late last week online and then am now today seeing this piece in the Washington Examiner. For those of you who are also, like me, on summer time, let me catch you up. Apparently a DC police officer is being penalized because she is a nursing mother and the police department is unwilling to provide her with body armour that is suitable for her body because she is nursing, but will not authorize her to work at a desk job, therefore she must take leave without pay.
She must take leave without pay because she used up all her sick leave to take maternity leave for her second delivery.
Now – again – remember that I haven’t followed this story carefully – I do not know if there is more to this story (like about this specific police officer) and for quite some time, I’ve respected and thought very highly of DC Police Chief Cathy Lanier – so something feels like it doesn’t add up to me – but then again, I am not an investigative journalist – so I leave the rest of the story to someone else.
Here’s what I know. We are a nation where hypocrisy ABOUNDS. We shove mommy guilt down the throats of new moms in the form of “breast is best” and all the reasons why the infants will suffer without their mother’s milk and yet we offer no federally mandated paid maternity leave to HELP new mothers exclusively breastfeed and provide for their families and then when nursing mothers return to work – we don’t offer them some place sanitary to nurse, somewhere private, and in many cases, even the time off needed to pump at work. And where does anyone talk about the huge hassle of lugging that pump to work, how much it weighs, how horrible it is to transport the milk on say, the metro, or idling on beltway traffic, etc etc. So again, we should exclusively nurse our children, but how that is logistically possible when we have responsibilities at work, paychecks we need and bosses to answer to who couldn’t care less about leaking boobs and clogged ducts, isn’t anyone’s problem but the nursing mom’s problem?
So as this story plays out in the backyard of the Obama White House, I call to your attention my interview with an employment law expert from the EEOC, where she discusses the Affordable Care Act that Obama passed last year. The very law requiring employers (of a certain number of employees) to offer women a sanitary place to pump at work – that is NOT the bathroom. Noteworthy – this law applies mainly to hourly workers – but Obama did compel the government to do better, to be more resourceful, so are we doing that?
Government, which includes the DC Metropolitan Police Department by my last count, can a woman not return from maternity leave, still pump as needed, and do her job? As in get paid to do her job? Are we really so draconian that women are being penalized for the very thing they are being told they should do for the health and welfare of their newborn children? Really people? This is the best we can do, the day after we celebrate our independence?
Update: A nurse-in has been organized for this Saturday July 9 from 10-12pm:
Metropolitan Police Headquarters
300 Indiana Avenue, NW
The group will be gathering to show support for the breastfeeding police officers of the Metropolitan Police Department and to raise awareness of the Department’s lack of accommodation for them. Here’s the FB page link: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=245764152117193#!/event.php?eid=245764152117193